Raising Teens Part 2 – How to Stay Connected to Your Teen

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If you are the parent of a teen or have raised teens you know that the teen years can be pretty turbulent.

Your happy, easy-to-manage child suddenly starts doing things they never did before – like questioning why they have to do what you say.

Hormones are doing their thing and your child may become moody, sensitive, tearful, or quiet for no apparent reason.

You long for the prepubescent days when your kids were… not quite so complicated!

It can be difficult to figure out what your child needs – one day they feel like a child and are happy to cuddle next to you on the couch, the next they feel like an adult and push you away. 

How are you supposed to maintain your relationship with them when they are confused – and confusing?

Do your kids even need relationship with you during the teen years?

Absolutely.

It may appear that they need you less because they push you away and become more independent, but they actually need you more, just in a different way.

Their needs have changed. Just because they don’t need you to tie their shoes and hover over them anymore doesn’t mean they don’t still need an emotional connection with you.

Maintaining a close relationship with your teen is essential to their emotional well-being and stability. The teen years bring a lot of pressure from the outside – to be accepted, to perform, to impress.

Combined with this comes an inner confusion and searching for who they are, what they should do with their lives, and what their values are.

 A stable relationship with you will help your teen navigate this turbulent time.   

What does a close, stable relationship between parents and teens look like?

  • Children talk with their parents often and feel comfortable sharing thoughts and experiences with them. They are comfortable asking for advice but still feel free to make choices and decisions.
  • Parents and children spend time together (eating meals together daily, family outings, etc) and generally enjoy each other’s company.

It is not a sign of healthy emotional development for a teen to push parents away, or for parents to let them.

While there should be a growing independence, there should not be a severing of the relationship with parents.

So how do you get and keep a close connection with your teens?  

  • Major on relationship and minor on rules. This may require a mental shift on your part. If you are majoring in relationship then you will consider what the condition of your child’s heart is first, before jumping to conclusions.

Learn to ask why. Why is my child speaking to me this way? Why is my child ignoring home rules? Why is my child living in a messy room? There is usually always a valid reason.

 Focusing on relationship doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have rules. You should. They provide stability. And if you’re going to have rules, then make sure they are enforced.

Giving consequences for breaking rules will teach your kids to think from cause to effect and make them better decision-makers.

Because rules dictate behaviour, don’t raise your kids just to only obey rules. Raise them to make good decisions. Help them think through choices and work through mistakes with them.

Thinking for themselves and making good decisions will keep them from following the crowd.  

  • Follow their cue. Don’t try and force your teen to open up and talk to you. you have to earn that. When your teen does start talking, listen. Be available – physically and emotionally. Stop what you are doing and focus on what they are saying. Ask them questions, and show interest in what they are interested in. Listen without judging or correcting. 
  • Respect physical boundaries. Be sensitive to how they are feeling about physical touch. If they shrug you off, don’t take offense. Ask your teen if they would like a hug or a shoulder rub. Respect that some days they will want this and others they won’t. Boys especially may not want you to show affection in front of their friends, and that’s ok. Don’t embarrass them. 
  • Manage smartphones and technology. You are the parent. Maintain your authority with a firm, calm hand in the area of technology. Your teen needs help keeping control of their screen time. Teen depression and suicide have increased since the advent of the smartphone. Cyberbullying, sexting, pornography and a host of other things are all thrown in kid’s faces thanks to technology, and your teen needs your help (whether they believe that or not, they do.)
  • Make your teen feel needed and part of the family team.  Give them responsibility. Expect them to contribute to the household by doing chores. Feeling needed is a great way to make your kids feel involved and connected to their family. Knowing they are needed is a big self-esteem booster.  

Include your teen in decisions you make as a family – plan family outings and holidays together. Get their opinion on things. We found our kids to be a valuable source of insight and ideas as they got older. Parents still have the final say in decisions, but including your kids will bond them to you.  

  • Talk about everything – it builds partnership. Share some of your favourite memories from your childhood. Give your kids a view into your life by sharing some of your current struggles, but don’t make your child a dumping ground. Talk about the transition from childhood to adulthood they are going through and how awkward that can be sometimes. Find out what is going on in their hearts. What are their struggles and fears? What do they enjoy?
  • Move from being governor to counsellor, but don’t withdraw altogether. Your child still needs limits. When I was a teen I was invited to go out with a group of older young people that I didn’t know very well. I couldn’t decide whether I should go or not. Something felt a bit off, but saying no felt too hard. My dad came through for me that day – when I asked him what I should do, he said he didn’t think I should go. I was relieved that I had the excuse that my parents said I couldn’t go. I do believe it saved me some trouble. Your teens still need you to be a safe place for them, and healthy boundaries provide security.
  • When you do need to correct don’t attack character. Instead of saying “How could you do such a stupid thing?” say, “We don’t agree with your choice and this is why. Why did you do it? What should you do next time? What can you learn from this experience?”
  • Show respect. Respect breeds respect, and has to be earned not demanded. Treating your teen like an adult even if they don’t always display adult behaviour will help you maintain your relationship with them. Speak respectfully, respect closed doors, say please and thank you.  
  • Look for the positive in your teen and comment on it. Give healthy praise where praise is due. Try to have more positive interactions than negative. Don’t be false and pretend though. A teen will pick up on this and reject it.  
  • Learn to respond instead of react. Reacting means you follow impulse in the spur of the moment, allowing anger or frustration to dictate how you treat your teen.  Responding means you take time to think about the problem, let your anger simmer down, and deal with the problem calmly and reasonably.
  • Pray earnestly for your child and for yourself. Kids are facing challenges way more difficult than we ever did. They need your prayer support. Job interceded for his children daily (Job 1:5) and as a result God placed a hedge about them (Job 1:10). Don’t underestimate the power of prayer.
  • Apologise when necessary. Don’t lower your standards but do apologise when you are in the wrong. There were many times I said to my kids, “I’m sorry for the way I spoke to you. I still think you shouldn’t have done … but the way I reacted was wrong and I apologise.” An apology goes a long way to mending relationships, no less the one with your teen.

All relationships take work, including the one with your teen. Do the work and you’ll reach the end of the teen years with your relationship intact. 

What do you do to maintain the relationship with your teen? What area do you need to work on?

About The Author

Jennifer Lovemore

Jennifer has diplomas in relationship counselling and CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), is a certified SYMBIS facilitator, and is certified in TPM (Transformation Prayer Minsitry). She lives in South Africa, has three grown children, and is married to her best friend – Richard.

1 COMMENT

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